RUNNER-UP: HOTTEST HOTEL BAR – SMITH HOTEL AWARDS 2015
The Upper House boutique hotel in Hong Kong is a high-style haven in the heavens from one of Asia's hottest designers, Andre Fu. Lord it up over the city skyline from the luxury of your apartment-like studio or suite, then indulge in some serious label-shopping at rejuvenated mega-mall Pacific Place downstairs.
Superb styling – Andre Fu design, contemporary art and ultra-luxe accessories
Eye-popping views to the Harbour, Kowloon-side, Hong Kong Island and the hills
High-rise fine-dining at Café Gray Deluxe on the 49th floor
A bespoke Upper House candle with holder
In the know
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An extra bed for additional persons, can be added for HK$500 a night. When the Hong Kong climate allows, rest on the upward journey to your room with a break on the Lawn, a secret garden on Level 6. Complimentary morning yoga classes on weekends.Beautifully set in Hong Kong-born wunderkind Andre Fu's serene, sophisticated design are a series of specially commissioned artworks, which follow the upward journey from fourth floor lobby, on the wooden-arched escalator to Level 6, to the grand, candle-lit columnades of the 49th floor and Café Gray. British designer Thomas Heatherwick's clever outside cladding, Stone Curtain, begins this artistic odyssey at street-level and a highlight is the inner atrium's 10-storey, water-inspired installation, Rise, by Hiroshiwata Sawada.
Home comforts abound – shoe-trees, yoga mats, arty coffee-table books and more Ren toiletries than you can fit in your washbag – so some skyscraper-scoping binoculars should suffice.
International urban chic (linens, neutrals) with a colonial flourish (blazer, shiny shoes).
Mr and Mrs Smith reviews
Within a nanosecond of my convoy pulling into the Upper House’s driveway, bearing a ridiculous nine pieces of luggage bursting with tools of the showgirl trade, three friendly faces appear and effortlessly whisk away my cases. Having come from a hectic London straight to an even more frenetic Hong Kong, my heart sinks to see a shiny escalator rearing up ahead and disappearing into a very beige and cream-coloured hotel interior. The Upper House is in Admiralty, slap-bang in the heart of the financial district, and I worry that I’m about to be sucked into a corporate rat-race in some soulless, futuristic metropolis. How wrong I was.
Not only does my Studio 70 Island View room have incredible vistas of Hong Kong from its picture windows, 43 floors up, but it feels more like staying at your best friend’s sleek-and-chic, Asian-style pad in Los Angeles, complete with jars of ‘help yourself’ cookies and sweeties, an iPod Touch, palatial (for Hong Kong) spa-style bathroom and – nice detail – complimentary drinks; none of that extortion-by-minibar business. The goodies keep Mr Smith quiet while our hostess discreetly checks us in on her iPad, right there in the room.
Needing to fend off looming jet-lag, I drag Mr Smith to the Temple Street Night Market. We take the Star Ferry from Central to Kowloon, a whole dollar for the best views of Hong Kong harbour, the Peak and the city’s amazing lightshow, a nightly son et lumière extravaganza played out over Hong Kong’s skyscrapers. As vintage travel methods go, it’s charming. Once at the market, things I have no need for suddenly become glittery and desirable. I manage to bypass Hello Kitty merchandise, non-waterproof Rolexes, fortune-tellers and all manner of ‘lucky chillies’ unscathed, but after spotting Hong Kong girls with pugs dressed in matching fur coats in prams, I’m determined not to be upstaged and snap up an all-in-one zip-up tiger suit for my little dog.
We grab delicious noodles in a street café with the locals before the market frenzy becomes too much for my travel-weary head. I realise as I arrive back at the hotel that the Upper House really is as its name suggests: a supremely chic but homely respite. There’s such an overwhelming sense of speed, height and scale in Hong Kong. When you’re not rushing around you spend your time looking up at the distorted reflections on angular towers of glass, with jagged slices of blue sky filling the gaps; or looking down at the metropolis from a great height. Now, lounging on the sofa and gazing out over the city at night from my cosy ivory tower is strangely therapeutic.
I soon succumb to a hot bubble bath with rose oil. As I survey the twinkling night-scape from the huge tub, Mr Smith alerts me to the following note on the marble windowsill: ‘Sneaky peaky – please remember that the view you enjoy through our large windows may, at times, be a two-way one. If you prefer that others in the buildings surrounding our hotel don’t enjoy the view too, we recommend that you close the curtains when seeking some privacy, particularly when it’s dark and your lights are on.’ But I love the thought that there might be a whole world of high-rise voyeurism between consenting skyscrapers!
The next morning, after working up a sweat in the hotel gym, I undo all my hard work with an unbelievable breakfast – for goodness sake, don’t leave without trying the fluffiest choc-chip waffles. Fancying an excursion and some more vintage transport, we take the 120-year-old tram up to Hong Kong’s highest point, the Peak. Being bad with heights, I just manage to cling to the edge of the look-out to take in the view but I’m scared witless when a dozen or so Chinese girls jump on me, all wanting their photo taken next to the tall lady with platinum blonde hair and elbow-length black leather gloves. My new fanclub amuses Mr Smith. One girl then asks if I’m a friend of Lady Gaga and I realise why I’d found it so easy to haggle at the market the night before.
That night we enjoy excellent cocktails and platters at the Upper House’s chi-chi Café Gray Deluxe Bar, which, on a Saturday night, is wall-to-wall stylish thirtysomethings. Mischievously, I test the barstaff, ordering obscure cocktails and changing my mind a few times. They’re unfazed and mix perfect martinis. In fact, all the staff at the hotel are singularly young, good-looking, friendly and exceptionally efficient – no trace of cloying insincerity, just pitch-perfect kindness and helpfulness.
The next day, with a disgustingly early flight to catch, I’m grateful for the amazing staff as they ferry my ridiculous luggage down to the waiting people carrier under the cover of darkness. I regret that it’s too early to have ordered breakfast and the prospect of rubbery scrambled eggs at the airport is making me feel queasy. As we say our goodbyes, the staff hand me and Mr Smith a paper bag. Inside? Steaming hot coffee, warm croissants and pots of jam for the journey – just the sort of thing my mum would have done. And it’s that kind of thoughtful detail that makes the Upper House worthy of its name.
Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Hong Kong, HK
1.4 mi / 2.2 km from city centre
- Onsite laundry
- Valet parking
- Complimentary in-room coffee or tea
- Exercise gym
- On-Site parking
- Internet services
- Room service
Café Gray Deluxe is already a Hong Kong institution. Mid-week you may share it with a few sharp-suited financiers, but it's just more new China, high-life grist to the mill as you all revel in the killer harbour views and classic cuisine of masterchef Gray Kunz. Try the tarragon-infused Crab Bisque or the delicate saffron-scented Pasta Fiore; the heirloom-tomato salad from the hills of Hong Kong Island was also a revelation. Who'd of thunk it?
All tables come with jaw-dropping vistas, but window seats offer pole-position, especially the more copious corner spots. Book ahead for intimate booth tables adjacent to the bar or one of the private dining pods lining the open kitchen.
Breakfast is served from 6.30am to 11.00am; lunch runs from 12.00pm to 2.30pm (with an 11.30am start on Sunday); and dinner goes from 6.00pm to 11.00pm.
Available 24 hours, with a good selection from Café Gray Deluxe. Browse and order on your iPod touch. In-room maxibars come stocked with free jars of cookies, chocolates and sweets, as well as tasty teas, coffee, juices and beer (wine costs extra).
Powder-blue, curved banquettes and a 14-metre-long marble bar make Café Gray Deluxe Bar and Lounge, alongside the restaurant, a suitably showy outpost of the Upper House home away from home. Snuggle up for a crazy cocktail creation from master mixologist Sam Jeveons, or swing by in the afternoon to check your email in style (WiFi is free). The gorgeous Skylounge across the aerial bridge is a more chilled-out spot for relaxing with a drink or snack, board game or good book, with a warming fire in winter and savvy 'guest experience managers' on tap if you need advice or help.